Sunday night at about 6:30 PM the LA Phil flight back from Caracas touched down at LAX. At that precise moment, an enormous cheer went up from the entire orchestra and staff.
People cheered not simply because they were glad to be home but truly in celebration, pride and recognition of making history. It was a moment in which our LA Phil “family” acknowledged they had just pulled off one of the most audacious and challenging projects in recent symphonic history. The Mahler Project: 9 Symphonies/2 orchestras/one Gustavo.
And yet it was so much more than that. It would have been remarkable if only for the technical and logistical challenges it presented. Thousands of people performing on two continents, a live international satellite theater broadcast, national Venezuelan TV, a dizzying display of L.A. and El Sistema educational activities, the launch of TAKE A STAND and everything else that went into this enormous, complex and far-reaching project.
All the technical razzle dazzle and institutional expertise aside, as we one day look back at the enduring legacy of this endeavor it could well be a defining moment for the LA Phil in two critical ways. For one shining 5 week period we and the Bolivars became one family. We were central to hearts and minds of our two cities. We were central to social discourse reaching beyond the music of Mahler. On the long flight home I can’t tell you how many orchestra and staff members told me that this had truly been a life changing experience. The opportunity to witness firsthand the power of El Sistema, its reach , its humanity, the possibility for changing lives can never be forgotten. The faces and accomplishment of the children of El Sistema are living witness to the power of the human spirit if it is only given a chance.
A colleague sent me a quote from a national Venezuelan newspaper of something I said at one of our many press encounters. It has particular resonance as we conclude this chapter and turn the page to the next. The paper reported my saying: “THIS MUSICAL MOVEMENT, EL SISTEMA IS IMPRESSIVE AND INFINITE. MAESTRO ABREU HAS CREATED A MIRACLE.”
Now it is our job to dream of where the LA Phil can go. The marriage of such keen artistic excellence and accomplishment integrated with a social imperative is not easy. The path won’t be clear because we have to build it. But then, isn’t that what we are good at?
My enduring gratitude to the champion musicians of the LA Phil who rolled with the punches and never gave less than their all, to the “hot shot” staff of the Philharmonic who do their best to make it all look easy even when it is far from it, to our Board of Directors (21 of whom traveled to Caracas to witness and participate first hand) for the courage to support this epic endeavor emotionally and financially. It is great to be home. It was an honor to have been there.
LA Phil President and CEO